Heavy rains cause flooding, damage

May 9, 2014

About half of Hunt County was reported to be under extreme drought conditions as of Thursday morning.

But much of the county was under water at some point during the day Thursday, as a series of powerful thunderstorms crossed the region, bringing the heaviest rains seen locally in months.

The rains caused widespread flooding, as rising waters covered roads and streets and leaked into several schools. The auditorium at Greenville Middle School was swamped, while officials at Bowie, Crockett and Travis elementary schools in Greenville struggled to keep up with the deluge.

Greenville Independent School District Superintendent Don Jefferies explained the flooding problems are among the items which will be addressed if the proposed school bond passes in Saturday’s election.

“The drainage issues at all the campuses, particularly the older ones, were identified by the engineers and are addressed in the bond package,” Jefferies said.

Ford High School in Quinlan suffered damage when the school’s cafeteria roof was ruptured due to heavy rains, while flood waters in Commerce entered at least two houses.

Emergency responders were dispatched to several high water rescues, including a school bus filled with children.

Majors Field, the City of Greenville Municipal Airport, had recorded 5.54 inches of rain as of Thursday night. Rainfall totals from other locations reported similar amounts, with one report of 6.62 inches south of Wolfe City and approximately 7.5 inches  at one location between Floyd and Clinton.

By comparison, the airport had received a total of 3.65 inches of rain during January, February and March combined.

Multiple streets in Greenville — including portions of Stonewall, Wesley, Sayle, King, Oneal and Templeton among others — were covered in water at times. U.S. Highway 69 just north of Greenville was reduced to one lane due to flooding, with several county rides also submerged.

Administrators at local schools found themselves on flood duty Thursday.

Due to cracks in the foundation at Greenville Middle School, the auditorium began to flood during the storm.

David Gish, principal at GMS, said classes that normally meet in the auditorium were displaced throughout the day, including the Suzuki Strings.

“Obviously we were not able to hold classes in there,” he said. “It was a safety factor for the children.”

Gish said since the building was built in 1950, major issues need to be addressed.

“A 60-year-old building just needs some TLC,” he said. “The foundation needs repair.”

The flooding also changed the bus pick up at the school and Gish said they had to use an alternate way to dismiss class.

Shannon Orsborn, principal at Crockett Elementary School, said they had to pull children from the portable buildings into the main campus due to flooding.

“We were having flooding in the back hallways and bathrooms,” she said, adding the water was coming up through the drains in the bathrooms. “We had to pull the kids out from the portables.

Walkways to the portables and the gymnasium were also flooded.

Orsborn said it was a hectic time dealing with the sudden onset of water.

“We were rushing all the water out,” she said. “We had all our maintenance crews out helping clear it up.”

Bowie Elementary School Principal Dale Mason said the rains caused water to accumulate in the school’s hallways through leaks in the roof and through seams along windows. Mason said the water did not force any classes to be moved, but did require teachers and administrators to take students along detoured routes to avoid stepping into puddles in the hallways. Mason said at times the water was ankle deep.

“We’re getting it cleaned up,” Mason said. “But when it really rains, during the heaviest downpours, it domes in faster than we can get to it.”

Travis Elementary Principal Stephanie Hensley said the school also experienced some minor flooding problems at the building on campus which hosts the PE and music classes.

“We decided to go ahead and move students inside the building,” Hensley said. “The gym itself had flooded, as well as some of the rooms in that building.”

Lunch time at Quinlan Ford High School was disrupted, when the roof of the cafeteria suffered a rupture and began falling in heavily. Reports stated the water was rushing in so fast, tiles from the ceiling began falling to the floor.

According to school officials, students were evacuated and moved back into their classrooms for lunch because of safety concerns.

Most of Commerce was affected by the flood as well, with power being cut off at Commerce and A.C. Williams Elementary Schools. Commerce ISD sent out a release to parents which stated power was not expected to be restored until later in the afternoon. Commerce Police and Fire Departments were also kept busy during the storms, as they responded to two incidents.

One occurred when a driver was trapped in his car after rising water made it unable to open his door.

Kerry Crews, chief of police for Commerce PD, said they responded to another one near a creek next to the Texas A&M University-Commerce President’s House on Charity Road.

Crews said flooding was so extensive through Commerce that it was easier to say which streets weren’t flooded than those that were, and added many of the streets looked like “rivers flowing.”

Crews said with as much rain as the city received in the short period of time, coupled with the drainage problems the city faces, was a recipe for the severe flooding which occurred.

“Commerce has a bad drainage problem,” he said. “Most of the streets that have heavy traffic were affected.”

The slogan “Turn around, don’t drown” was one Crews urged people to consider when traversing the flooded roads.

“If you suspect you cannot make it through, it is not worth risking it,” he said.

The Lone Oak Fire Department responded Thursday afternoon to a report of a school bus trapped in high water along County Road 3213 at FM 2649. The bus was able to make it out of the water and no injuries were reported.

The awning at North Texas Title in Greenville was blown down due to high winds which accompanied the storms Thursday morning.

Hunt County remained under a flood warning as of Thursday night, as the Cowleech Fork of the Sabine River near Quinlan and the South Fork of the Sabine River near Quinlan were supposed to exceed their banks overnight, with moderate flooding expected before the waters recede late this morning.

The National Weather Service forecast was calling for another slight chance of rain in the area between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Herald-Banner editor Caleb Slinkard and reporter Joseph Hamrick contributed to this report.